Ronaldo victim of ‘political ban’ at World Cup, says Erdogan
Cristiano Ronaldo was “wasted” by Portugal at the 2022 World Cup and became the victim of a “political ban,” according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ronaldo, 37, endured a torrid time in Qatar as Portugal crashed out to Morocco in the quarterfinals.
He started both of his team’s knockout-stage matches on the bench after being dropped by manager Fernando Santos, and played just 40 minutes of the defeat to Morocco.
The Portugal captain later acknowledged that his dream of winning the World Cup was over after suffering more disappointment – despite becoming the first player ever to score at five editions of the tournament.
Compounding matters, Ronaldo’s generational rival Lionel Messi went on to lead his country to their first World Cup success in 36 years.
According to Erdogan, who is a well-known football fan and former semi-professional, Ronaldo was mistreated by his team.
“They have wasted Ronaldo. Unfortunately, they have imposed a political ban on him,” Erdogan said at a youth event in the eastern Erzurum province on Sunday, according to Anadolu Agency.
“Sending a footballer like Ronaldo to the pitch with just 30 minutes remaining to the match ruined his psychology and took away his energy,” the leader added.
Erdogan further claimed that Ronaldo “is someone who stands for the Palestinian cause,” Anadolu Agency said.
It was claimed in 2019 that Ronaldo had donated $1.5 million to feed people in the Gaza Strip, but those reports were later proved to be false.
Despite Erdogan’s assertions that Ronaldo fell victim to a “political ban,” there was support on display for Palestine at the World Cup in Qatar.
Moroccan players were seen parading with the Palestinian flag after their matches as they finished fourth at the tournament – a best-ever performance for an African nation.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, continues to face intense speculation surrounding his future.
The Portuguese forward left Manchester United under a cloud just before the World Cup after an explosive TV interview in which he took aim at manager Erik ten Hag and figures in the club’s hierarchy.
Ronaldo is said to be keen on remaining in Europe so that he can play Champions League football, although the only concrete offer he has received has come from Saudi team Al Nassr.
The deal would see Ronaldo pocket a mammoth €200 million ($212 million) per season on a two-and-a-half-year agreement as a player, before he remains as an ambassador for Saudi Arabia’s 2030 World Cup bid, according to Spanish outlet Marca.
Turkish leader Erdogan weighed in on the speculation, saying: “According to the information I received, Cristiano Ronaldo will go to Saudi Arabia.”